Amazing Tales from Girls Make Games Camp!
Written by guest contributor Sharon Feliciano
“I think Kitty’s summer is kicking everyone else’s summers butt!” this statement on my Facebook page accompanied a picture of my nine year old daughter proudly standing by the door to a conference room at PopCap Games’ corporate offices. Kitty was getting ready to start her second week of Girls Make Games, a game design camp. Our friends and family followed along enthusiastically on social media as I posted daily updates of her camp adventures.
Girls Make Games is a three week camp that was held in July at 24 locations around the world. During the camp the participants learned about different career options in the gaming industry, met people working in the field, and toured game studios. In the three weeks they attended camp they also wrote, designed and developed a playable game.
Kitty was one of the recipients of a scholarship for camp through a partnership between Girls Make Games and GeekGirlCon. I was a little apprehensive to send her. At age nine, she was a lot younger than their loosely recommended ages of 11-14. I had no doubt in her abilities, she’s had some exposure to computer programming, and she is a skilled video game player, but I worried that that she’d be too young to fit in with the older girls. These fears were assuaged by her beaming smile at the end of the first day of camp. She loved it, and she already loved all of her new friends.
During the three weeks, the group of 10 girls was split into two teams. Kitty got along well with her teammates, and they all fell into roles that suited their interests and abilities. They had a writer, a character designer, a sound engineer, and a puzzle designer. Kitty was responsible for level design. She took her role very seriously, with a counselor marveling “She wanted the floor to be green carpet, which wasn’t an option, but their game has green carpet!”. The girls learned how to work together as a team, how to prioritize tasks, and how to offer and respond to constructive criticism. At the end of the three weeks, each team had to pitch their game via video to a team at LearnDistrict, the company that produces Girls Makes Games. They also did a live pitch at a demo day for the parents. It was amazing to see Kitty shake her stage fright and confidently present her game to a room full of strangers.
Each week the girls met and worked with women in games. All of the camp counselors were either in the gaming industry or recent Computer Science graduates. The camp was held at PopCap, so they had the opportunity to see women doing gaming work on a daily basis. Girls Make Games also brought in special guests to teach the girls about topics like sound design, storytelling, and project management.
As a former teen girl who is now a mom, the opportunity for girls to work together in a collaborative atmosphere was wonderful to experience. At nine, Kitty is starting to become self-conscious about her interests that her friends have called “boyish”. I remember that feeling, and as her parent, I find it harder and harder to convince her to be true to herself when she gets caught up in what’s “cool”; to see teenage girls embracing their geekiness was very inspirational for her. I can tell her technology is cool all day long, but when her new 14 year old friend with pink hair tells her it’s cool, it holds a bit more weight.
The spirit of the camp encouraged the girls to work together, to use their strengths to support and teach other. It was amazing to watch these girls lift each other up. Of all the lessons she learned, the lessons of teamwork, encouragement, and girl empowerment are the ones I’m sure will stick with her.
Thank you to Girls Make Games, and to GeekGirlCon for the opportunity. In three weeks time, my daughter learned so much about women in technology, the process of making games, and how to rally around and empower her fellow geek girls. If this camp is any indication, the future of games is bright, and will be led by girls!
Sharon Feliciano is a writer at the blog Parenting Geekly.